Salisbury playwriter Barney Norris has successfully transformed a classic drama to have a very modern and local feel.

In a bold move, Norris sets Federico Lorca’s century-old Spanish tragedy Blood Wedding in a Wiltshire landscape and lets the ‘county speak through it’.

With a cast of six, this dramatic love story touches on the struggles of ordinary people, loss, longing and betrayal. 

Laughter through tears is a big focus in the play and Norris’s retelling includes plenty of humour, often breaking up some very tense moments.

The production at Salisbury Playhouse is set entirely around the village hall in Edington, with a large bright moon looming overhead like an omniscient character.

The play opens with young couple Georgie and Rob, along with Rob’s mum Helen, waiting to look around a potential wedding venue. 

As they wait for the caretaker to arrive, the cracks begin to show... 

Carefully directed by Alice Hamilton, the performance includes youthful language and local dialect. 

Lily Nichol is impressive as young bride Georgie, who has had her struggles after being forced to end a previous relationship with young Irish traveller Lee, but she’s back on the straight-and-narrow and believes marrying Rob, four years her junior, will ‘sort her out’.

Stage 65 Youth Theatre alumnus Reece Evans is wonderfully endearing as he brings a youthful laddishness to groom Rob, who has adored his intended since he was in Year 7 at school, he’s a bit of a joker but tragically naive at heart.

Teresa Banham plays mother of the groom, Helen, an anxious divorcee who is desperate to make her son and future daughter-in-law happy so that she won’t lose them forever.

Emmet Byrne brings a very convincing intense and seriousness to troubled Irish traveller Lee. His wife Danni (Eleanor Henderson), who used to be friends with Georgie at school, is content with her life as a traveller’s wife and mum.

All appears to be well for the two young couples until a chance meeting at Edington village hall leads to the truth unravelling and lives fall apart... 

Jeff Rawle (The Durrells and Harry Potter) is superb adjudicating over everyone’s troubles as Brian, the hall caretaker and the oracle of the play. Although he gains the most laughs with his indiscreet timing and little pearls of wisdom, there is a sadness to this bumbling old local. He has lost his wife and daughter, both buried in his childhood home of Imber. As he narrates during the penultimate and tragic scene, the audience learns there is more to Brian than first appears. During this dark interlude he proclaims: “Wiltshire is a hungry county, it claims us all in the end.” 

The set is realistic, a shabby village hall, graffiti on a bench outside, a noticeboard, broken concrete with weeds sprouting through. The backdrop encasing the village hall is an arc of tiered concrete reminiscent of a bull ring - perhaps a nod to Lorca’s Spanish original. 

Music is well used with loud trance tunes dividing the scenes and, during the second act, the muffled sound of a wedding disco resonating from inside the hall.

I found this Wiltshire Creative and Up In Arms production of Blood Wedding to be incredibly captivating, moving and humorous all at once. 

As the mother of a Stage 65 student, it was encouraging to learn that three involved in this play (writer, director and actor) are all former members of the youth theatre group – giving the play even more of a local element.

The performance continues at Salisbury Playhouse until February 22. Tickets at or 01722 320333.

By Christine Stock